Martens sprout seed industry

N.Y. State Ag. and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball was in Yates County last Thursday to tour a modern seed cleaning and sorting facility designed in China that brings artificial intelligence and internet connectivity to local agri-business.

Klaas, Mary-Howell, and Peter Martens escorted Ball on the tour of their newly built, geothermally climate controlled processing facility and warehouse at the family farm on Ridge Road in Torrey. With them were the Chinese engineers who oversaw the manufacture of the machines in China, and are overseeing their installation at the Martens’ farm.

Using local contractors, many of them Mennonites, to build the super-insulated facility and assemble the imported equipment, Klaas praised the local workers’ skill, speed, and adaptability. Just three weeks after work started, the mechanicals are complete, and wiring should be finished by today with the switch ready to be thrown. Klaas says the local workers completed the job a week faster than Chinese workers were able to do, and without the language barrier the Martens faced.

Mary-Howell says they used an iPhone translator app and were helped by some Chinese graduate students from Cornell to communicate with lead engineer, Mr. Xu, who travelled from China and stayed at the Martens’ farm during the project. Xu has overseen construction of similar sorters in 22 countries around the world, but this is the first in the U.S. Peter says work sped up considerably once Xu discovered that the workers here could read the blueprints for themselves rather than needing explicit instruction at every stage.

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